John Gruden’s lawsuit against the NFL could go on in open court

John Gruden won two major battles in his civil suit against the NFL on Wednesday when a judge in Clark County, Nevsky, rejected two of the league’s legal motions – one to close his lawsuit directly and the other to enforce a closed arbitration.

Gruden filed the lawsuit in November 2021, a month after a report in The New York Times in an email in which he made homophobic and homogenous remarks, forcing him to resign as head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders. Another e-mail exchange in which he used racist language when referring to NFL Chief Executive Officer Demor Smith, who is black, was reported by The Wall Street Journal.

In his lawsuit, Groden argued that the league and Commissioner Roger Goodell had deliberately leaked the email, trying to destroy his career and reputation through an “evil and orchestrated campaign.”

Judge Nancy Alf, at Clark County District Eighth District Court, heard oral arguments from both parties while Gruden looked into the courtroom. He concluded that the defendants’ arguments did not meet Nevada’s high standard of dismissal immediately. He also denied the NFL’s motion to transfer the case to arbitration, saying he was “concerned about the commissioner having the sole authority to determine any employee’s dispute.”

Brian McCarthy, an NFL spokesman, said the league was planning to appeal the court’s decision on the arbitration and reiterated that the league denies the email leaks.

The NFL argued that the league constitution required that any employee dispute involving conduct that the commissioner deemed harmful to the league be sent to arbitration, and that there was no doubt that Gruden’s letters met that definition. But in his decision, Referee Alf said the harmful behavior mentioned in the league did not occur at the time when Gruden was under contract with the Raiders.

Although the email was published early last season – Gruden’s second year of service to the Raiders – they were sent for seven years, ending in 2018, before Gruden worked as an analyst at ESPN. Gruden did not deny sending derogatory letters to Bruce Allen, the former president of the Washington Command team, and others. They were collected in Washington, D.C., as part of a league investigation into workplace culture. In his lawsuit, he claimed that Goodell and the NFL had deliberately leaked the email to prevent criticism of the Washington investigation.

Judge Alf’s ruling means that for the time being, Gruden’s claims will remain in the open, as both parties are involved in a potential revelation process that the NFL has sought to avoid in other labor disputes. The decision comes as the NFL prepares to file a motion to coerce Brian Flores’s discrimination lawsuit against the league before arbitration, a move that Flores and his attorneys have publicly opposed.

While Gruden’s attorneys have argued that the decision to send his case to arbitration set a disturbing precedent for other staff disputes, it is unclear how or whether that decision will have any impact on how Flore’s case is handled. The decision of the state district court will not have a direct impact on the case in the federal court, although judges can make decisions in other courts to inform their decisions. Flores, the former head coach of the Miami Dolphins, has argued that the NFL and its member teams discriminate against blacks in the process of hiring blacks.

“We argue that the arbitration clauses are unfair in view of the fact that the Commissioner, who has expressed his views on the matter, can not act as a judge and a panel of jurors and have fair control over the matter,” Douglas Vigdor said. Flora’s attorneys said in a statement Wednesday.

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